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Virtue's Last Reward: Video Game Review

Updated on May 21, 2014

For those who know, Virtue's Last Reward is the sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, which is a great visual novel and puzzle game. Though it is possible to play Virtue's Last Reward (VLR for short) without having played 999, I highly recommend checking out 999 first before going on to this game. While I don't think that VLR is quite as phenomenal as 999 was, it's still very easily one of my all time favorite video games.

Overview:

  • I extremely enjoyed this game.
  • The story, while not quite as tight written as Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, is still intense and thought provoking.
  • This game includes suicide and should not be played by anyone who is triggered by that.
  • The gameplay issues prevalent in some of 999 has been fixed, allowing the player to only focus on the new parts of the game.

Storyline

The story follows Sigma, the young 22-year-old studying to become a doctor. On Christmas Day, 2028, he is drugged and subsequently kidnapped. He wakes up in what looks like an elevator shaft with a mysterious girl. They escape to find themselves in an abandoned warehouse with several other people. He soon finds out he, along with eight other people, has been chosen to participate in a Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. The goal? Get 9 BP (Bracelet Points) to be able to open the Number 9 door, which can only open once and for nine seconds. As the game goes on, however, disturbing things begin to come up: What day is it? Has there been a dangerous disease that's started to spread while they were kidnapped? And who is that dead lady in one of the elevator shafts?

This game is far, far more extensive than 999. Instead of just six endings, it has 24 different endings to play through. And instead of just needing one 'bad' ending to continue through the game, you will probably end up having to go through nearly all of the endings to get to the one true ending. The game has a lot of replayability and, similar to 999, it has a lot of moments that foreshadow the twist.

While this game is far more extensive, I don't necessarily think that it was as good as 999. That being said, 999 is very much a stand-alone game; VLR isn't. If you were to play 999 and stop the story there, things would still make sense. However, in VLR it's quite obvious that this game is meant to set up the plot for the third game. Therefore, while a lot of things are wrapped up in Virtue's Last Reward, there are also a lot of loose ends by the end of it all.

Enjoy the Promotional OVA!

There's also a bit of backlash against the characterization of Clover, the only character recognizable by players of 999. In 999 she was a quick-witted young lady who cared a lot about her brother and the other people trapped; in VLR it doesn't seem as though she can think through things as well, and her outfit is extremely sexualized. It just didn't seem like the Clover many people fell in love with.

While you will probably like most of these characters as much or more than the 999 characters once the game ends, it can take a very long while before you begin to warm up to them. That's a bit more due to the nature of the game that's being played; while it was essential for everyone to work together to find the exit (and save the squabbling until they found it), VLR's Nonary Game is based on allying and betraying characters. As everyone is out for themselves, trying to get to those 9 BP to escape, this can bring out the worst in the characters, and it takes a while to find many things likeable about them.

However, I have to say, the game is still phenomenal. While Kotaro Uchikoshi, the creator of the Zero Escape series, tried to tone down the horror aspects of VLR, it was still pretty bone-chilling at moments. Still, it tends to have less of a real horror tone and more of a mystery, puzzle solving tone. I think this is due to the fact that there really isn't a time limit, so there's less of a tenseness to the game.

Zero III, a strange bunny artificial intelligence, often helps you understand how to play.
Zero III, a strange bunny artificial intelligence, often helps you understand how to play.

Like 999, VLR brings in its own share of weird science. However, instead of morphic resonance (which still plays a part in the game), the focus tends to be on quantum physics - with a character whose name is Quark, I would be disappointed if it didn't - Schrodinger's cat and the infinite universe theorem. I really liked that it still took the psuedoscience established in the previous game and worked to build on that, using quantum physics and the other theories to give it credibility.

For those who remember the Prisoner's Dilemma from your economics class, that plays a fairly large part in the game, as you are forced to ally or betray one of the characters, and you don't know if they will ally with you or betray you. However, given that you know that you can always go back and change your vote (and there being a flowchart, which I will talk about later), a bit of the urgency to get things right the first time just isn't there.

If you are triggered by suicide, I highly recommend you do not play this game. I love the Zero Escape series to death, and I thought VLR was a strong sequel, but if suicide triggers you or anything like that, then this isn't the game for you. I can still safely recommend Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but other than that I care much more for your health than whether you play a video game or not.


Gameplay

This game is, like its predecessor, is a visual novel: While it does have puzzles within the game, most of the game is the story and the characters talking amongst one another. However, this time, all of the characters except for Sigma, your viewpoint protagonist and narrator, have a voice actor. All the backgrounds are also in 3D. It's a big step up from 999, and it really helps the overall experience of the game.

Another thing that has changed is that, during the puzzle modes of the game, there are two settings: Easy and Hard. With Easy Mode, you can get help from other characters if you ever get stuck; in Hard Mode, you're on your own, and as a reward you can collect gold files that add to the game experience. Since you can go back and replay the puzzles, there's really nothing stopping you from solving the puzzle in Easy Mode then using the codes you find to open the gold file safe in Hard Mode. In fact, I recommend doing that: Anyone who has read my review on Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors or anyone who has played it knows that part of the fun of the game is the humorous dialogue during the puzzle mode. Unfortunately, I did not know that most of the funny parts were only available in Easy Mode and missed out, so don't be like me!

Most of the flaws within the 999 experience were remedied with Virtue's Last Reward. For instance, in 999 it was impossible to get to the point in the story you wanted to without solving at least one puzzle and fastforwarding through a whole bunch of dialogue. With VLR, they introduced the flowchart. On it were all of the possible outcomes in the game, and you could jump to any point in the flowchart that you had played before. So, if you got a bad end and you died, you could easily jump to the branch right before the last decision was made, and change that decision. It was so much easier to get through the game, and I never felt like I had to hear things a million times. Also, since a lot of the beginning dialogue is the same no matter what branch you go to, you can choose to fastforward the text, and it will automatically return to a normal speed once it reaches new dialogue.

You also will never have to replay a puzzle. Every single path has a different puzzle to solve. Considering that you could easily solve all the puzzles in 999 with three or four plays and soon grow bored of them, it was a good improvement. Each room has a different feel to it, and all of them require a good bit of thought to solve; the average time to solve each room is about an hour. Though I missed out on some good dialogue playing only Hard Mode, I had a lot of fun playing the puzzles in VLR, all of which were pretty clever.

However, there is a major glitch for the 3DS version of the game: If you save the game in puzzle mode, there's a chance the game might freeze and you'll have to completely start over. Not cool. To avoid this, I highly suggest only saving during story mode, and avoid saving in the PEC Room at all costs (as that is the room the game is most likely to glitch in).

5 stars for Virtue's Last Reward

Conclusion

Of course, I have oodles and oodles of things to discuss about the game, but that's about as much as I can give for a review for those who have never played it. Again, I really recommend trying this game out, I think it's extremely overlooked and if more people knew about it, it would get extremely popular extremely fast. It's such a smart game, with such a riveting story and compelling characters. I highly recommend checking this game out.

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